Every journey has a different beginning and for us the start was Jamie’s medical discharge from the British Army in July 2017. After 12 years in the infantry, facing the prospect of building a new career, we decided that stop-gap would be the perfect opportunity for us to finally travel. Kanchanaburi Death Railway is the place that captured us the most.
Kanchanaburi Death Railway – Why There?
With Jamie’s military background, it’s no surprise that a lot of our plans have revolved around visiting important war sites or places with a strong military history such as the DMZ in Vietnam or an amputee centre for victims of bombie explosions in Laos. But it is the famous bridge over the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, that struck a chord with us most.
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Kanchanaburi Death Railway – The Tour
Not wanting to miss anything, we decided to shell out on a private half-day tour with a guide from the Death Railway Museum which included admission to the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre and the JEATH museum, as well as visiting the location of a former POW camp, the Kanchanaburi and Chong Kai War Cemeteries, Chong Kai cutting and of course the famous bridge and railway line.
The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, was a 415-kilometre (258 mi) railway between Ban Pong, Thailand, and Thanbyuzayat, Burma, built by the Empire of Japan in 1943 to support its forces in the Burma campaign of World War II.
Between 180,000 and 250,000 Southeast Asian civilian labourers and about 61,000 Allied prisoners of war were subjected to forced labour during its construction. About 90,000 civilian labourers and more than 12,000 Allied prisoners died.
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Kanchanaburi Death Railway – War Cemetery
Walking along the rows of graves in the war cemetery we couldn’t help but notice the ages of some of the soldiers – around the same age Jamie was when he was deployed to Iraq at 18, and Afghanistan aged 20. The messages from parents, wives and siblings who would never see their loved ones again really hit home as Jamie’s former regiment, The Rifles, lost the most men of the whole British Army throughout their campaign in Afghanistan.
Jamie’s interest wasn’t purely professional though, as he also has a personal tie. His dad is a former Infantry Soldier as was his uncle before him, and it is the fate of that great uncle which links Jamie to the history of Kanchanaburi.
During World War Two this great uncle was captured by the Japanese. He surrendered in Singapore and was taken to a Prisoner of War camp where he remained until the war ended. Unlike thousands of others he survived the hellish ordeal and made it home, albeit a changed man and he sadly passed away several years later meaning Jamie never had the chance to meet him.
If you haven’t been to Kanchanaburi, we’d definitely recommend planning it into your trip. What happened in Kanchanaburi, and along the rest of the so-called ‘Death Railway’ should never be forgotten.
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Check out this amazing vlog to find out more about Kanchanaburi.
About the Travelers
Hi! We are Jess and Jamie, a couple from Liverpool, England, currently in South East Asia. In August 2017 we waved goodbye to our friends and family, cars, house and even our jobs and set off to see a bit more of the world. You can check out the rest of our journey on Instagram @ourdreamdeployment.